Tony Parker, Stephen Curry

Preview: With Stephen Curry and Tony Parker banged up, other Warriors and Spurs will have to step up in Game 4

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When the Spurs and Warriors face off today, they’ll do so with both their floor generals not 100% physically. And while Parker is sure he’ll play with his bruised calf, Curry is only “optimistic” he’ll be able to see the floor and sounds far from certain he’ll be near his best if he does play.

For the Warriors that’s not the best of news, obviously. Curry has been spectacular these playoffs and the focal point of his team’s high powered attack. These playoffs, when Curry is on the floor the Warriors boast an offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) of 110.8, but that number dips to an astonishingly low 83.0 when he goes to the bench, per NBA.com. If Curry isn’t able to approach his normal standards, the question then becomes if they can get enough production from the rest of their backcourt players to match a potent Spurs’ offense.

Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson will need to raise their respective games, especially relative to what they were able to provide in game 3. Today, Jack can’t be the turnover machine he was and will need to avoid playing with the tunnel vision that freezes out his teammates way too often. Thompson, meanwhile, must get into the flow of the game early and often, looking for his shot off pin downs and in transition to help boost the offense.

Beyond the guards, the Warriors will also need for Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green to be assertive when they have match up advantages. Both have the ability to create offense for themselves and for others and if Curry is hampered, they’ll need to provide that extra playmaking to help supplement what Curry can’t provide. If both can not only get some key basket for themselves but create a few easy ones for the Warriors’ big men when the Spurs help, it would go a long way towards a successful day on that end.

Where the Warriors really need to figure things out is defensively. The Spurs, like they did in the Lakers’ series, seem to be rounding into form after getting a good sense of what their opponent likes to do defensively.

Tony Parker seems to be sorting out where the gaps in the defense are and is attacking when given space while hitting his jumper when his man tries to deny those driving lanes. That said, if his bum calf hampers his ability to create off the dribble, other Spurs ball handlers will need to step in and provide those skills. In game 1, Manu Ginobili was able to provide playmaking, but his scoring has suffered in this series. If he can break out today, it would be a huge boost to San Antonio.

In his own way, Tim Duncan may also have fill some of the playmaking void should Parker not be up to his normal standards. Operating from the elbow and the low post, Duncan can not only score but can be a facilitator for teammates when his team goes into their motion heavy sets. If Duncan shots start to fall, it will only open up his passing angles further and that will spell trouble for a Golden State defense that didn’t bring their top effort in game 3.

But, ultimately, this game will come down which team can get more from their banged up guards. Because while others will need to chip in, both Curry and Parker are too important to what their teams want to do offensively. And if either is substantially hampered in this game, their team will struggle to make up the difference in production as the defense tightens up against everyone else.

Westbrook hits game-winner as Thunder beat Jazz 97-95 (VIDEO)

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) —  Russell Westbrook hit a pull-up jumper with 1.4 seconds left, and the Oklahoma City Thunder stopped Utah’s six-game win streak with a 97-95 victory over the Jazz on Monday night.

Westbrook took over down the stretch and scored 11 of the Thunder’s final 13 points after going cold in the third quarter. He finished with 38 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his 22nd triple-double of the season.

Alec Burks missed the final shot for the Jazz as time expired.

Victor Oladipo scored 18 for Oklahoma City.

Gordon Hayward led Utah with 17 points.

The Jazz rallied in the third quarter with a 13-0 run to take a 66-60 lead, but the Thunder pulled within three early in the fourth thanks to five straight points from Oladipo.

The Thunder took a 56-53 lead into halftime after Westbrook dominated the second, The dynamic point guard scored 14 in the quarter to give him 22 at the break.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Steven Adams returned from a two-game absence due to a concussion. … Reserve Enes Kanter scored 14 against his former team.

Jazz: Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan sat with his Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton during the game.

STAYING PUT

The Jazz announced Monday that ownership of the team and Vivint SmartHome Arena has been transferred from Gail Miller to a legacy trust in a move that ensures the team will remain in the family for generations. Miller said the primary reason for the transfer is to make sure the team stays in the state.

HOOD UPDATE

Rodney Hood missed his fourth consecutive game with a right knee hyperextension and bone bruise.

“The original timeline was 2-4 weeks and, as far as I know, he’s on track with that,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He’s been in getting treatment and starting to do some work on the court. They’re doing all the different measurements and balance tests and all those things.

“He’s making good progress. But I don’t know if that means we’re going to see him later this week or next week. There’s another phase there to clear him for some more competitive stuff … and see how he’s feeling. But right now he’s feeling good.”

Terrence Jones scores 36, leads Pelicans past Cavaliers 124-122

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Terrence Jones filled in brilliantly for injured All-Star Anthony Davis, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking LeBron James‘ dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-122 on Monday night.

Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, and Langston Galloway capped a 12-point night with a clean steal on James’ drive in the final minute, preventing the Cavs from erasing a deficit they had trimmed from 22 late in the first half to three with 1:32 left in the game.

Kyrie Irving scoring 35 of his 49 points in the second half, but the Cleveland fell to its fifth loss in seven games. James had 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

Two of Cleveland’s recent losses came against Western Conference leaders Golden State and San Antonio, but two others have come against teams currently outside the playoff picture in the West: New Orleans and Portland.

Kevin Love had 22 points for Cleveland, which could not quite keep pace with a Pelicans squad that tied a season high for 3-pointers with 16 and shot 49.4 percent (43 of 87).

Donatas Moteijunas scored 14 for New Orleans, while Dante Cunningham scored 11. Each hit a pair of 3s.

The Cavs drained 15 3s, eight by Irving, whose step-back jumper from long range had Cleveland within three with 21 seconds to go, but the Cavs got no closer until Love’s anticlimactic 3 in the final second.

Embarrassed in a 29-point loss to NBA-worst Brooklyn at home on Friday, the Pelicans were eager for a chance to redeem themselves with a competitive showing against the defending champs. That did not appear likely when New Orleans announced less than an hour before tip-off that Davis would be unable to play because of his right leg bruise lingering from a collision with the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie.

Coach Alvin Gentry inserted Jones for Davis as the starting center, and he responded with arguably the most dynamic half of play in the fifth-year veteran’s career. He hit all eight of his shots in the first half, scoring 22 points on an array of jumpers – including two 3s – weaving drives and feisty put-backs.

Holiday, meanwhile, got into an equally prolific rhythm, hitting three 3s and highlighting several impressive drives to the hoop with a two-handed dunk. Holiday’s pullup jumper from just inside the 3-point line with 6 seconds left in the second quarter gave him 22 points and New Orleans a 22-point lead, and Holiday pumped his fist while one of the biggest crowds of the season went wild.

In the last second of the half, James executed a long inbound pass to Love, who converted a quick-release layup to make it 70-50.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Coach Tyronn Lue was assessed a technical foul by official Leroy Richardson after the coach chastised Richardson for a late whistle giving Moteijunas free throws following a missed layup. … The Cavs won the teams’ only other meeting this season, 90-82 in Cleveland on Jan. 2. … Irving slung in what would have been a sensational, off-balance, one-handed shot from about 30 feet, but it didn’t count because it came too late after Irving was fouled by Tyreke Evans as the pair pursued a loose ball near mid-court.

Pelicans: New Orleans improved to 2-2 without Davis in the lineup. … G E'Twaun Moore, who is 6-foot-4, delighted the crowd by rejecting the 6-8 James near the basket in the first half. … New Orleans shot 60.5 percent (26 of 43) in the first half.=

 

Heat’s Dion Waiters drains game-winning three to knock off Warriors (VIDEO)

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Last week Golden State crushed Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and Houston.

But none of those teams had Dion Waiters.

The final three of Waiters’ 33 points came on a deep pull-up three with 0.6 seconds left to give Miami a 105-102 upset of the Warriors. Waiters shot 13-of-20 overall and 6-of-8 from three.

This was a night the Warriors just could not get the three ball to fall, shooting 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) from deep. This ended Golden State’s seven-game win streak and extended the Miami win streak to four.

Joakim Noah with as ugly a free throw as you’ll see. And he knows it. (VIDEO)

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Joakim Noah used to be a good free throw shooter, he’s hit 70 percent for his career. But he’s shooting just 42.9 percent this season.

And no miss was uglier than the one Monday night against the Pacers.

The best part of this airball was Noah’s reaction — he knew it was bad the second he let it go.

If you want to draw parallels with the Knicks’ season, go for it.